A collaborative statement on academic freedom and critical conversations
April 21, 2022 4:06 PM
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
The Massmail of April 13 stated that “The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion was incorrectly identified as a co-sponsor for a talk ‘Unfinished Business: Zionism as Racism and Racial Discrimination.” This is a mistake. To clarify, co-sponsorship had been sought and was approved for the speaker series entitled, “Blueprint for Transitional Justice in the United States: Building on Lessons and Insights from Global Perspectives” organized by the Illinois Global Institute and funded by the Chancellor’s Call to Action to Address Racism & Social Injustice Research Program. The goal of the lecture series has been to open discussion of difficult questions about contested histories of racism and discrimination by featuring speakers who highlight their complexities. The OVCDEI did not intend to appear to endorse or advocate for any of the perspectives presented throughout the series.
The mission of OVCDEI is to foster an inclusive community on our campus. While the OVCDEI strives to ensure no group feels excluded or silenced on our campus, the core mission of universities must include critical scrutiny of all commitments, ideologies, and claims, and a willingness to engage in a range of perspectives on profoundly controversial questions, especially with those with whom we are in fundamental disagreement. While co-sponsorship does not imply endorsement, the OVCDEI plays a role in convening those conversations, especially across contentious and difficult topics that address issues of justice and equity. Inclusion in the Illinois community must encompass all voices, and engagement on critical issues such as those in the Middle East must include all perspectives.
We realize that the title of the lecture may have been offensive to some, and the Massmail of April 13 also offended others. This is not surprising in view of the extremely difficult and painful nature of the Middle East conflict.
To be truly inclusive, our commitment to academic freedom is even more important when controversial topics are discussed. We strive to be the best shared learning community we can be. This statement is part of that process.
Sean C. Garrick
Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Dara E. Goldman
Director, Program in Jewish Culture & Society
Associate Professor, Department of Spanish & Portuguese
Waïl S. Hassan
Director, Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Professor of Comparative & World Literature and English
Acting Executive Director of the Illinois Global Institute
Roger and Stephany Joslin Professor of Law